Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Twenty Questions

Missionaries, church planters, and anyone who is being sent from one community to another, all reach a point in their journeys when the people around them reduce conversations to about three questions:
  1. when are you leaving?
  2. do you have a place to live yet?
  3. are you feeling excited?
While these questions are well-meaning and express interest, the missionary soon begins to feel like a pregnant woman. Because she is 'pregnant' with preparations for her new work, it seems like who she is has been overshadowed by where she's headed. The present state of her heart and life practically disappear from interest and she can often feel lonely, even as people constantly ask the same questions in an attempt to engage her.

If you know anyone in this situation, or anyone who's returned from the mission field, or anyone on the mission field, or anyone who's actually pregnant, or who's just had a baby, or is about to start a new job, or is unemployed, someone who's been working the same job forever or who just moved...well, actually, if you are involved in community with anyone, in any way, then I challenge you to avoid asking the obvious questions and consider pulling one of these 20 questions out of your pocket the next time you connect.  

The challenge, of course, is not just asking the question but also being prepared to respond generously to what you hear.  
  1. How is your marriage?
  2. How have you been encouraged lately?
  3. What are you reading?
  4. What do you find yourself worrying about?
  5. What has God been teaching you recently?
  6. What are you most looking forward to?
  7. How are you balancing your time right now?
  8. What's bringing you joy?
  9. How can I pray for you?
  10. What does rest look like for you?
  11. How have you changed in the last year or two?
  12. How do you feel about that change?
  13. What do you sense God wants to work in you in this next season?
  14. Who have you been sharing the gospel with lately?
  15. In what areas are you feeling discouraged or challenged?
  16. Who is God calling you to serve right now?
  17. What are you thankful for?
  18. What truths about God are you struggling to believe and put into practice?
  19. What do you want from God today?
  20. How can I help you?
What are your go-to conversation starters?
Why do you think we so easily rest on the obvious (more superficial) questions? 


  1. I like these questions. Our house church is into asking "How's your hope?" Good question, but it can really feel superficial. I much prefer asking/being asked "How's God deepening your understanding of Him?" and "What are you resting your hope in today?" I feel we go into these superficial questions b/c it's a comfortable area for us. We don't like to see people bleed and wrestle through some of the more challenging aspects of a Christian life. It's oftentimes easier to hand them a band-aid.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Becca. In the end, alot of this comes back to our own hearts, right? How willing am I to hear a difficult response and then have to enter into that person's heart?
      p.s. I would love to hear about your house church sometime! any chance you/they would be interested in hearing more about our work in NYC? (he he he - I already brought it back to "going"!)

  2. I think that those are great questions that we can all ask each other.

    Here are the reasons why I think those first three questions become difficult. Personally, when we begin the process it is fun and productive to talk through it constantly. When things slow down and we are ready and all is set it is easier to realize we are not in control and things aren't going quite as we expected or hoped! We can't control when our baby will come. We can't control when someone decides to offer us a job and we can't control when we have raised enough support to leave. I think we end up feeling discouraged and when others ask we feel uncomfortable that it hasn't all worked out as WE planned.
    I think the problem lies with us just as much as it does with the person asking the questions. They are asking those questions because we have talked about them, asked for prayer, and have centered our lives around those big changes. So they naturally ask about what we have expressed is of most importance to us. At the beginning, if they would have asked us one of those 20 questions we would probably find a way to talk about the very thing we are trying to avoid now.
    I don't think any of that changes the fact that we want people to ask us different questions. I think it gives more clarity as to WHY they don't. So maybe is it more about us communicating with them about what we want to share and about what we would like to talk about and how we feel most loved.

    1. Rach, I like your points about those first 3 questions. YES, it can be difficult to keep answering the same questions when our replies are so undefined (I have no idea when I'm leaving!) and I am in a constant state of waiting on God. Maybe that is why those other questions - even if they are centered in the context of going to NYC - become so important.
      I also feel like alot of this comes back to community, rather than passing conversations. Of course people that only see me once every other week on a Sunday morning are going to ask general questions that don't require an in-depth response; those who are in more regular community with me are more likely to ask the questions that take time.